Pakistan’s Afghan Strategy

Pakistan has to follow a multilayer approach in dealing with the issue of TTP along with maintaining a goodwill relationship with Afghanistan.

Since the arrival of Afghan Taliban 2.0 in Kabul on 15th August 2021, Pakistan’s key concerns revolve around the elimination of TTP which en­joys institutional support from the rank and file of Afghans. Experts view that the Afghan Taliban and Pakistan Taliban are dif­ferent sides of the same coin because of similar ideological goals, and ethical and religious attachment. Furthermore, some experts view that the Afghan Taliban is paying back to TTP because the latter segment greatly helped the Afghan Tal­iban during the last two decades of the war against terrorism (2001-2021).

Regardless of the divergence of opin­ions, facts never tell a lie. A recent report by the UNSC on Afghanistan depicts that TTI is gaining ground in Afghanistan due to the support of the Afghan Taliban. Furthermore, Pakistan’s own defense and foreign ministry inside reports con­cluded a similar opinion as Pakistan has witnessed 60pc increase in terrorist at­tacks in the country during last year (2023), the highest number of terrorist attacks in years.

These alarming situations posed the political and military leadership of Pak­istan to undertake a correct decision to terminate any possible peace talks with TTP as conditions of peace talks with TTP led to total surrender of state at the moment. Furthermore, assessment reports from the US Institute of Peace depict that Pakistan’s military is crystal clear about terrorism and TTP - which have to be terminated from the surface of the country.

However, despite the strategic and le­gal right decision of Pakistan about TTP, the Afghan Taliban have remained ada­mant about the changing situation. First, they remained in denial of any nexus be­tween the Afghan Taliban and TTP. Sec­ond, they push harder for bridging peace talks between Pakistan and TTP, which is unacceptable to Pakistan. And now, they are actively backing fractions of banned terrorist outfits in Afghanistan, especial­ly TTP. The result is obvious: Deteriora­tion of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations.

Despite the reckless behaviour on the side of the Afghan Taliban, Pakistan has to follow a multilayer approach in dealing with the issue of TTP along with maintain­ing a goodwill relationship with Afghani­stan owing to the immense strategic im­portance of the landlocked country.

First of all, Pakistan should initiate full kinetic and military response to terror­ist attacks from Afghanistan in the form of TTP. We have the full military capabil­ity to undo the menace of terrorism as Pakistan’s military successfully conduct­ed the military operation against terror­ists during Swat Operation (2008), Op­eration Sherdil (2007-2013), Operation Zarb-e-Azb (2016) and Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad(2017-present), mainly in KPK and former FATA. Furthermore, owing to a large consensus between political and military leadership, Pakistan should ac­tively ask for counter-terrorism cooper­ation with the USA for the prevention of Afghanistan as a terrorist hub.

Second, Pakistan should actively man­age its border to contain the threat of ter­rorism from Afghanistan. For that pur­pose, Pakistan’s military has successfully undertaken fencing of a largely porous border of 2611km, which could greatly help in managing the nefarious activities of TTP. Furthermore, the Pakistan gov­ernment should actively pursue the Af­ghan Taliban for accepting the Durand Line(2611km) as an international border.

Third, last year, Pakistan made a cor­rect decision to deport illegal Afghan refugees, which stands at 600,000 out of 3-5 million total Afghan refugees who have staying in Pakistan since the 1980s. Owing to security and economic pressure, this deportation scheme has been undertaken; however, it can equal­ly generate pressure on the Afghan Tal­iban to dislodge themselves from TTP. Nevertheless, at the same time, Pakistan should respect international norms and value while deportation program of Af­ghan refugees.

Fourth, Pakistan should maintain a high level of political, military and ideo­logical contacts with the Afghan Taliban to maintain a potential leverage on them. For that instance, these contacts should revolve around germinating goodwill among the political, military and reli­gious leadership of both countries to fos­ter a friendly relationship. For instance, since the arrival of the Taliban, Pakistan has tried to maintain a full level of con­tact with the Taliban at various levels.

Fifth, owing to four decades of war in Afghanistan, the country has witnessed an alarming rate of humanitarian crisis. Pakistan is among the first countries to send humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. Pakistan should continue to allow this humanitarian aid to Afghanistan to cre­ate goodwill between the Afghan Taliban and the Afghan people.

Sixth, being a war-ridden country, Af­ghanistan is desperately looking for eco­nomic activities, investment and aid. For that, both Pakistan and China can active­ly pursue the agenda of economic recov­ery of Afghanistan. For instance, the ex­pansion of CPEC into Afghanistan and later to Central Asian Republics, can equally benefit each country of the re­gion and make the region an economic rub and regional connectivity and devel­opment, a dream of CPEC and BRI.

Finally, Pakistan along with regional countries and the international commu­nity has to build a consensus on the issue of stability of Afghanistan. For example, terrorism, inclusive government, human rights, women’s rights and girls’ educa­tions should be agenda of talks with the Afghan Taliban. Terrorism should be a red line among them. Regional forums such as SAARC, ECO, SCO and Moscow Format Consultation can be used as ef­fective platforms for building a consen­sus on Afghanistan.

In a nutshell, the Afghan Taliban should not live in foolish paradise dreaming of hoping for recognition of the regime while siding and aiding with terrorist outfits. Concerns of Pakistan are legiti­mate; therefore, Afghanistan has to dis­lodge itself from TTP to maintain a good relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The choice is oblivious for the Afghan Taliban: TTP or Pakistan. On the other side, Pakistan should maintain a strategy of stick and carrot to pursue the Afghan Taliban in sensitive areas of Pak­istan. One can conclude that Pakistan does not lose patience while dealing with the Afghan Taliban and maintain­ing a multilayer approach to protecting its core national interests in Afghanistan and the region.

Sher Ali Bukhari
The writer is a UET alumni with keen interest in Pakistan’s foreign policy.

Sher Ali Bukhari
The writer is a UET alumni with keen interest in Pakistan’s foreign policy.

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